Take a closer look at Florida’s 13 Zero Robotics 2015 Teams! New and Returning TEAMS!

26 May
  1. Life to the Max                                         Leesburg, FL
  2. Lake Nona Middle School                        Orlando All-Stars
  3. Jackson Middle School                            Orlando All-Stars
  4. Carver Middle School                              Orlando All-Stars
  5. Boys and Girls Club of Suncoast             Largo, FL
  6. R’Club Child Care, Inc                             Petersburg, FL
  7. Boys and Girls Club of Hernando Co.     Spring Hill, FL
  8. P.K. Yonge Dev. Research School (UF) Gainesville, FL
  9. Odyssey Charter School                         Palm Bay, FL
  10. Berkley Accelerated Middle School         Auburndale, FL
  11. Bok Academy                                          Lake Wales, FL
  12. Boys and Girls Club of Central FL          Orlando, FL
  13. Han Christian Anderson Elementary      Rockledge, FL



Highlights from 2014 Middle School Zero Robotics

28 Jul

This five-week program was designed to engage middle school students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through the Zero Robotics game through MIT. We hope to help students better understand this content by connecting it to something pretty exciting: space! They also get the chance to learn about STEM careers so that you can understand the many interesting opportunities for success that STEM fields can offer. Most of all, we hope they have fun!

Eight teams entered, and only one team will emerge to lead their robot code to victory in the finals on August 15, 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center’s Center for Space Education! Good luck to our teams!

Zero Robotics Field Day was on July 15, 2014 at the Kennedy Space Center’s Center for Space Education. Here are some of the pictures!
ZR - Copy IMG_3500 IMG_3499 IMG_3476 IMG_3470 IMG_3452 IMG_3444 IMG_3443 IMG_3433

The Afterschool for All Challenge: 2014

22 May

Calling all Florida afterschool champions and partners!

On May 22, afterschool leaders from around the country are in Washington, D.C. to meet face to face with members of Congress, and to urge them to co-sponsor the Afterschool for America’s Children Act.  We need your help to amplify their voices.

Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire learning, and help working families.  All students should have access to these life changing opportunities.  Yet, 18 million children, roughly one million in Florida, who would like to participate don’t have a program available in their community.

The Afterschool for America’s Children Act will stregthen the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative – the only federal funding stream dedicated to supporting out-of-school programs nationwide.

Members of Congress need to hear from constituents like you who care about making afterschool for all a reality.  Help us make 535 calls to Congress – that’s one for every senator and representative on Capital Hill.

First, make the call.  Call one of Florida’s 29 senators or representatives on Capital Hill today.  Use these links to find the contact information for our Senators and Representatives.

Use this script to help guide your call:

“Hello, my name is (name), and I’m a constituent from (city, state).

“I’m calling to ask for (Congress person’s name) to co-sponsor the Afterschool for America’s Children Act.  This bill would support afterschool programs that keep kids safe, inspire learning, and help working families in our community be strengthening the 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.

“As a (educator, parent, concerned citizen, etc.), I am asking that (Congress person’s name) support our young people, and champion high-quality afterschool and summer learning opportunities for our kids by signing on as a co-sponsor to this bill.

“Would you please pass my message along to (Congress person’s name)?

“Thank you!”

Second, log your calls with the Afterschool Alliance here.

Lastly, spread the word to help us reach our goal of 535 calls to Capital Hill!

Thank you,

Joe Davis, CEO, Florida Afterschool Network

FAN awarded a STEM System Building grant

5 May

From the new Florida Afterschool Network STEM Policy Director, Samantha Thorstensen:

Through a grant awarded to the Florida Afterschool Network in 2014 by the NOYCE Foundation, FAN has begun to build a quality STEM system for afterschool programs in the state of Florida.  We are excited to already be working with regional partners in Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Tallahassee.  These partners will host existing afterschool programs to help them to build quality STEM activities within their programs.  The first to do so is the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) in Jacksonville, which is hosting a STEM Afterschool Workshop on September 20, 2014.  This workshop will feature additional FAN STEM partners, such as NASA STEM educators, MOSH educators, the National Magentic Laboratory, CPALMS, and Click2Science representatives.

Workshops of this nature with all of our regional partners are in the works, with the goals of :

  1. Increasing the percentage of students successful at conducting real-world STEM projects and inquiry, capable of authentic and collaborative problem solving, proficient in applying multidisciplinary knowledge and skills through STEM, and knowledgeable about and interested in STEM careers;
  2. Increasing the quality and quantity of STEM educators;
  3. Creating a statewide sustainable STEM leadership organization to align existing and emerging STEM initiatives and represent Florida as one voice in meeting STEM demands.

If programs are committed to prioritizing quality STEM learning, they must also apply the resolve needed to provide quality support to their staff.  Professional development is absolutely vital to advancing quality STEM learning.  Programs must also commit to quality STEM learning beyond training.  Quality STEM learning activities offer time for student reflection.  The plan should focus on increasing student interest and engagement, ensuring that each of their activities are purposeful in support of their plan, and links cohesviely to what students are learning in the core instructional day.  Program leaders must seek the resources, tools and partnerships necessary to make such a plan successful.  These workshops will help build quality STEM plans for programs, as well as guide and support them with resources to accomplish this.

Support of FAN’s work to help infuse STEM into afterschool is overflowing across Florida.  This support was evident at the Midwest Afterschool Science Academy held in Kansas City in April 2014. where Florida stood out as a shining example of community and state support.

FAN’s staff has also bee working together with other exciting projects and partners, which include:

  • The National Zero Robotics Middle School Summer Program,
  • the Florida Institute of Technology TEDx event,
  • Prime Time of West Palm Beach Afterschool Symposium, and
  • NASA Days with Florida program.

Look form more amazing STEM-ulating projects in the near future for Florida afterschool programs!

The Importance of Strengthening Afterschool Partnerships 2014

25 Feb


For the next featured article from the compendium, Expanding Minds and Opportunities: Leveraging the Power of Afterschool and Summer Learning for Student Success, FAN Board Member and retired Superintendent of St. Lucie County, Florida Public Schools, Michael Lannon, provides insight into the collaborative partnership that is essential between school principals and afterschool and summer learning program directors to achieve positive school/afterschool outcomes for children and youth. Michael Lannon, Florida Afterschool Network CEO Joe Davis, and USD 500/Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Lane, recently presented to the American Association of School Administrators national conference attendees in Nashville, Tennessee on the topic of “Leveraging the Power of After School and Summer Learning for Student Success”.

High quality education is everyone’s business. If we believe that all children and youth can learn and indeed that all children and youth can learn more than they previously have, then we must accept that in order for that to happen all of us must play the appropriate 21st century collaborative roles with all the appropriate players. We are all accountable to our children and youth-school and after school educators, students, parents, communities, and businesses.

School and after school educators include preschool, extended day/week/year, and traditional pre K-12 professionals and staff alike. As adults accountable to our children and youth, shouldn’t we be expected to bring forward all of the resources available for the benefit of each child?

Traditional pre K-12 educators have their plates piled high already. Simply adding to that plate over burdens them and diminishes their effectiveness as principals and teachers. Using after school and extended year programming in partnership with traditional pre K-12, each partner focusing on the common goal of greater, enriched, and deeper learning for each child, is the 21st century highway to maximizing time and effort for children and youth across a community. Consider that the children of Florida are awake approximately 6,000 hours annually and that students in traditional pre K-12 programs receive approximately 1,000 hours of instructional learning time annually. This leaves an astounding 5,000 hours or 80% more of the child’s awake time to be used to further enrich and engage each child in high quality, aligned and yet distinct, learning opportunities designed for success.

Student learning and development is no longer the sole province of Pre K-12 schools. New relationships must be initiated among school boards, superintendents, local politicians and experienced principals and after school leaders in order to fully utilize the resources which are available during the 5,000 awake hours when children are not in traditional pre K-12 education settings.

This collaboration is the exciting cornerstone to achieving positive after school outcomes for children and youth and will serve to enhance learning and achievement for all students. It is critical that our network work hard to get this message out to traditional pre-K-12 and after school educators across Florida.

Read the article More Than Just Another “To-Do” on the List: The Benefits of Strong School, Principal, and Afterschool/Community Relationships here.

FAN CEO Larry Pintacuda Retires 2013

12 Dec

Florida Afterschool Network (FAN) announced December 5th, with bittersweet emotions, that the organization’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Pintacuda has decided to retire at the end of the year.  Pintacuda has served as the CEO of the Florida Afterschool Network since 2007.

For the past seven years, Pintacuda has worked tirelessly to promote the mission of FAN and develop a network of community leaders to serve on the Board of Directors and Panel of Champions.  With his leadership, Pintacuda has created an organization that advocates for the development, enhancement and sustainability of innovative, high quality afterschool programs and policies statewide.

For nearly 45 years, he devoted his carerr to children’s services programs.  Prior to joining FAN, he spent 33 years with the State Department of Children and Families (DCF).  At DCF, he served as the Assistant Secretary of Operations, as well as the State Child Care Coordinator.

“It has been a pleasure to serve as FAN’s CEO,” said Pintacuda.  “The past seven years have been incredibly rewarding, and also challenging.  I am proud of all that we accomplished.  There is still much to be done, but I know I am leaving FAN in good hands.”

Linda Lanier, Board Chair for the Network, said, “I have witnessed firsthand the growth of FAN over the years, and it is an organization that I am proud to be part of; Larry is leaving behind a great legacy, and he will be missed.”

Following Pintacuda’s retirement, Joe Davis will assume the role of CEO.  Currently serving as COO, Davis joined FAN in 2011 following a career as the Chief of Bureau of Family and Community Outreach at the Florida Department of Education.  He also previously served as Chair of the FAN Board.

Pintacuda will retire on December 31, 2013.  He will spend his retirement volunteering, traveling with his wife, and visiting his two children and four grandchildren.

Larry Pintacuda (1)

FAN, NASA, MIT Wrap Up 2013 Zero Robotics Summer Program

4 Sep


Check out the blog below from Laura Colville, Education Specialist for CASIS, the organization that operates the International Space Station.  Florida Afterschool Network was excited to lead this program in the state of Florida, and looks to be able to offer the program statewide next year.  FAN would also like to congratulate the teams from Southern Oaks Middle School, in St. Lucie County, and Ralph Williams Elementary School, of Brevard County, for coming in first and second, respectively, in the national Final Competition!

“On Tuesday, August 13, approximately 350 middle school students gathered at universities and NASA centers across the country for the Zero Robotics Middle School Competition. Zero Robotics is a robotics competition where students have the opportunity to utilize the International Space Station as a laboratory to test programming codes from the ground using “SPHERES” (Synchronized, Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) satellites.

Led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Space Systems Laboratory, which originally designed SPHERES, along with its partners (Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, Top Coder, and Aurora Flight Sciences) and generous sponsorships from CASIS, DARPA, and NASA, this program is aimed at engaging students in innovative, complementary learning opportunities during the summer, as well as increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

During the five-week Zero Robotics Middle School Program, middle school students in California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, and Massachusetts worked collaboratively with program staff to learn physics, mathematics, and computer programming through interactive activities and hands-on experience programming their SPHERES satellite. SPHERES are bowling ball-sized spherical satellites used inside the ISS to perform test flight formation and docking maneuvers. Students spent much of the summer learning to write computer programs and formulating strategies for their SPHERES in anticipation of the final competition.

Students had the chance to see the SPHERES that they had programmed over the summer and competed against each other aboard the ISS as NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Karen Nyberg  provided real time commentary on the competition via live feed.

Florida had 10 teams from Brevard, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Orange Counties participating in the Zero Robotics Middle School Competition.  Harbor City Elementary School, Enterprise Elementary school, Lewis Carroll Elementary School, Ralph Williams Elementary School, Southern Oaks Middle School, Gifford Middle School, Lake Nona Middle School, and Jackson Middle School all participated.

The Florida teams gathered at the Kennedy Space Center on August 13th to view the competition that was broadcast live from MIT and the ISS. Two Florida teams placed in the top tier. The wild card team from Southern Oaks Middle School in St. Lucie County, Florida won the competition with the team from Ralph Williams Elementary in Brevard County, Florida placing second.

Larry Pintacuda, Chief Executive Officer for the Florida Afterschool Network, the coordinating agency for Florida’s teams, was thrilled that Florida middle school students had the opportunity to participate. “These young people spent a very productive summer working together in teams becoming excited about learning in a hands-on, fun environment,” he said.  “Perhaps we have fostered future scientists and engineers. I can tell you for 150 middle schoolers (in Florida), it has been a wonderful summer”.

The Zero Robotics Middle School Program was started as a component of NASA’s Summer of Innovation, a nationwide program targeted at encouraging STEM education for middle school students. The pilot in 2010 was centered regionally around the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, and in 2013 the program has grown to  include multiple locations around the country, including California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, and Massachusetts, with CASIS as the main sponsor for the middle school competition.”

To view an archive of the competition, visit: